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Summer Mixtape: New Songs Each Week!

By Xpress Mag Staff

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Photo by Nadine Quitania

Summer is officially here, so what better way to celebrate than with some new tunes? We’ve compiled for your listening pleasure, a rad playlist to kick off the summer. We’ll post a Soundcloud playlist each and every week with our favorite tracks to share with you and your friends. This week’s playlist features over 35 tracks from Little Dragon, Ta-ku, IAMNOBODI, and many more. So here’s to long road trips, afternoons at the beach, barbecues, and late nights with friends. Listen here, and make sure to follow us on Soundcloud and keep an eye out for what else we have in store.

Against the Grain

By Xpress Mag Staff

Speakeasy Ales and Lagers Brewery, located at 1195 Evans Avenue in the Bayview District. Apr. 6. Photo by Tony Santos / Xpress

Speakeasy Ales and Lagers Brewery, located at 1195 Evans Avenue in the Bayview District. Apr. 6. Photo by Tony Santos / Xpress

Written by Katie Mullen
Photo by Tony Santos

It’s a beautiful Saturday in San Francisco. The sun has come out to play and so have you. You and a group of friends decide that the only thing to compliment the beautiful day at hand is a well-crafted beer. You guys are in luck, you live in a city dotted with some of the finest micro-breweries out there.
Beer has quickly gained popularity in the past seven to ten. More people are learning about it, attempting to make it, and simply drinking more of it. Home brewing was not made legal in the United States until 1978. This is not to say that home brewed beers were a pigment of the imagination though, they were just a well-kept secret.
Now, it seems that every other person you talk to will tell you how they are attempting to brew at home or that on of their friends are. It use to be taboo for girls to drink beer, it was a drink for manly men. It was the alcohol of football games and arm wrestling tournaments, and besides it had too many calories for girls to drink it, right? Well not anymore.
Beer has become a coveted and respected drink. Its no longer just the drink of beer pong and beer bongs. It is a hand-crafted alcohol that people smell before tasting to get a whiff of the hops in it, they sip it and attempt to decipher hints of coffee or hazelnut, perhaps there is a hint of fruitiness or citrus.
Perhaps the most trending type of beer is the infamous IPA, short for India pale ale. You may have head people say, “oh, its so hoppy, I love it!” and may of you may have shook your head agreeing but really had no idea what on earth they were referring to. Well let me break it down for you. Hops are one of the few main ingredients found in all beers. It is simply the flower of a hop plant, which is part of the hemp family. It gives off a bitter taste, which is what many IPA lovers search for. Shockingly, there are over three hundred different types of hops grown anywhere from Germany to California and Washington.
Hops were originally used to balance the beer. Grains that are used in beers are extremely sweet and sugary. So, by adding hops and bitterness, brewers were able to create more of a balanced flavor that was less overwhelming for the drinker. The IPA took that a step further to overpower a beer with the hops.
Here is some information about IPAs to impress your friends with. India pale ales came into existence around the 18th century. A man named George Hodgson would ship beer, his pale ales, from England into India. Because the voyage was long and hops acts as a natural preservative, he would add extra hops in order to help the beer stay fresh. The taste because increasingly demanded and born from the pale ale came India pale ale we know and love today.
Currently, the West Coast IPA has become a new way to brew using the process of dry hopping. Which in short gives you the aroma and flavor of the different hops creating different tastes in beer. This is why no two IPAs will taste the same. And our recommendation would be to try them all!
San Francisco is proud to be the home of Anchor Steam Brewery but it is also home to many other amazing breweries that have somehow remained under the radar for many years. With beer now coming into the social scene, they are gaining popularity and foot traffic but they are still considered local gems.
Some of these breweries are Cellarmaker Brewing Company of Howard St., ThirstyBear Brewing company in the Financial District, and a Giants fan’s home away from home: 21st Amendment. But at the top of the local beer guru’s list would have to be Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, Triple VooDoo Brewery, and Southern Pacific Brewing.
Speakeasy is a locally brewed and mostly locally sold beer. It specialized in Ales and Lagers. Ale beers are brewed from malted barley and yeast. It is fermented very fast, which gives it a fuller taste and is often times fruity. These also contain hops to balance the malt. Lagers ferment much more slowly than ales. They are brewed with bottom fermenting yeast then are stored at cool temperatures to mature their taste. The hops are much easier to taste in a lager than in an ale.
Speakeasy is a fun place to spend a day. Sampling beers and talking to the servers and bartenders that could talk to you for days about the beers they currently have and beers they use to carry. “I love going to Speakeasy not only because I love their beer but because I always seem to learn something about beer whether it be about how it is made, how it is processed, or what is in it,” says Michael Herndon, a previous SF State student now living in the city. If you are interested in the process of how ales and lagers are brewed, the tour would be the place for you to go. But, take a pen and a notepad because brewing is a long and complicated process. Luck for us, Speakeasy Ales & Lagers has it down to a science, literally.
Next on the list would be Triple Voodoo Brewery and Tap Room. If the name alone isn’t enough to draw you in there, you are in luck because I have more information for you. Berkley student and beer enthusiast, Derek Campbell says, “Every time I come into the city, I make it a priority to come into Voodoo. I hate to be corny but I really do think they cast a spell on me or put a potion in their brews or something.”
What is cool about Triple Voodoo is that you can have food from local restaurants delivered to you as you are sitting and enjoying a nice, cold, well-crafted beer. The brewery has sixteen beers on tap that rotate, meaning that they are not all available year round. This is kind of fun because if you are use to drinking a beer but it is not on tap when you go in, you are forced to step outside the box.
And finally, probably the least known and talked about brewery would be Southern Pacific Brewery. This brewery is awesome because it is not what you are expecting when you see the building. It also has some tasty food to compliment the beers they have on tap. One woman’s favorite is the Porter, it is on tap and when that tap runs out, it is gone for a while. “I literally cried one time when I came in here and the Porter tap was gone,” says Raimi Mitchell-Young who lives in the city. “The thought of it was the only thing that got me through my day, it is the best beer I have yet to find in the city, and it was gone!” She also went on to say that the black bean burger and sage fries are to die for.
These breweries only scratch the surface of what San Francisco has to offer the beer obsessed individuals. But to get into it would take hours to read through. The best advice is to start at a microbrewery, spark up a conversation with a bartender or fellow beer drinker, and ask them what other breweries they enjoy. Then the fun part comes, go explore them! There are so many beers out there that it can be daunting, but the more you try, the more you will know and the more you can narrow the search for your personal perfect beer. Beware of the sours though, rumor has it that they grow on you if you can drink a full glass in one sitting, emphasis on the “if”… Now go forth and taste!

Blind Ambition

By Xpress Mag Staff

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Written By Ben Tasner
Photos by Lorisa Salvatin

A child of two deaf parents, Meir Schneider, was born with cataracts, glaucoma, astigmatism, and nystagmus. As a young boy he underwent five unsuccessful surgeries that shattered and scarred his eye lenses. He was declared permanently blind. Despite being told that his condition was hopeless he was determined to see. Now he drives.
Schneider spent his childhood reading and performing schoolwork in Braille. At the age of seventeen his life changed dramatically when he met an instructor who introduced him to the Bates Method of eye exercises, a natural vision therapy developed by William Bates in the late nineteenth century.
Schneider diligently practiced the Bates Method and combined it with his own regiment of self-massage and movement. Within six months he began to recognize visual objects for the first time and today he holds an unrestricted California driver’s license.
“Working on my eyes was at first painful,” says Schneider, who attended SF State from 1978-79. “Then slowly as I built more and more vision it became more normal for me. We worked and I improved my vision from something like 20/2000 to today about 20/70.”
Schneider ability to see defies the basis of modern vision diagnosis. An optometrist might take one look at his eyes and immediately conclude that he is blind because his lenses admit less than one percent light. Yet he can read the eye chart and he drives throughout the Bay Area on a regular basis.
“To be in a place where I can drive is beyond anyone’s imagination,” says Schneider. “The day that I got my driver’s license was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It was like a prize. The biggest prize I could possibly get.”
Despite the rising rates of vision failure Schneider’s story of natural vision improvement runs cross current to the swell of traditional vision correction. The National Eye Institute reports the number of Americans who report some form of visual impairment is expected to double by 2030. But as the rates of vision failure continue to increase, mainstream medicine remains stagnant in its approach.
“Medicine does nothing about it,” says Schneider. “What happens with medicine is that they give you crutches to deal with it, but they are not doing anything to help the essential reason why vision gets worse.”
Schneider challenges the notion that vision failure is irreversible and the prolific tendency to over-correct through the use of lenses.
“The whole world is resistant,” says Schneider. “They say [vision failure] is a process of life, and that’s that.”
Medical professionals state nearsightedness, farsightedness and other refractive errors are a result of eye shape and a hardening of the lens, which cannot be changed. Schneider sites poor blood circulation to the head, stress, bad habits and environmental influences as the causes of most vision problems and believe that people can improve their vision if they explore these factors.
At his School for Self Healing on the corner of Santiago and 48th Street in San Francisco, Schneider, 59, analyzes habits like excessive close viewing, the prevalence of shoulder tension, and other symptoms of modern times, which have led to increasing rates of vision failure.
“When people were illiterate there were very few people with nearsightedness,” says Schneider. “When people started to read some of them became nearsighted, and when people used the computer many more become nearsighted.”
He has taken his experience and research, and translated it into a program of self-healing. He works with patients individually to improve their vision, leads group workshops periodically, and travels throughout the world helping others achieve the unthinkable.
“The reality is that traditional optometry and ophthalmology could do nothing for him,” says Erik Peper, professor at the Institute of Holistic Health at SF State, who met Schneider in 1976. “Here’s somebody who had horrible vision from birth, but he did not listen to a culture that told him he had no hope. He’s an exemplar of what is possible when we really have a drive and desire to achieve whatever we want.”
The exercises Schneider teaches draw on principles derived from the Bates method with the addition of massage, relaxation, and various forms of bodywork. The physical exercises are an important component of vision improvement because he says the eyes are a function of the body and cannot be treated separately, and blood flow to the eyes must be developed.
At his school near the ocean he has fourteen massage tables, a sauna, and a trampoline. Schneider leads his patients on Ocean Beach excursions and instructs them to walk backward in the sand. He wants people to activate muscles they rarely use and to relax the muscles they frequently use. He helps patients learn to isolate muscles and then unite the parts.
After relaxation has been cultivated, Schneider leads his patients through the eight principles of natural vision improvement: deep relaxation, adjustment to light, distance viewing, looking at details, periphery, balance of two eyes, balance use within each eye, and body-eye coordination.
He says that a myopic lifestyle leads to poor vision habits. Staring at a computer, or remaining transfixed on a cell phone for too long decrease the eyes’ abilities over time. He also believes that sunglasses are anti-productive, but he does have one use for them.
“We break sunglasses, that’s the only use I have for sunglasses,” says Schneider frankly. “We break one lens and put duck tape on the other lens, and it becomes an obstructive lens and we use that.
He frequently rubs his eyes, gently massaging them throughout the day, a technique he teaches his patients as well. Night walks and sunning are other practices he employees to strengthen various parts of the eye.
“The body sees well. We do things that make it not see well and we don’t compensate for what we do, and by not compensating we create all these problems.”
“Yoga for the Eyes” is a series of YouTube videos in which Schneider demonstrates how a person can quickly improve their vision. One of the methods, developed by Bates, but practiced by Tibetan yogis for thousands of years, is a palming practice, in which a patient cups his hands over his eyes. Schneider says that this is the most integral of all eye exercises because it both rests and energizes the eyes at the same time.
Lindsay Cartwright, a massage therapist and Schneider’s former operations manager, was hesitant to buy in at first.
“I was skeptical because his story is very grand,” she says. “But you see it’s not only true for him, but for a lot of the clients we have coming here. They have results that are just as miraculous. It’s not often the big stories you hear are true.”
Jeanne Harvey, 67, of Quebec City, Canada, had pseudo laminar dystrophy, which her ophthalmologist recommended treating with surgery. If left untreated, pseudo holes can lead to blindness. While waiting for the surgery she found out about Meir Schneider in a book, flew to San Francisco for one of his workshops and began practicing his exercises. Within a month her ophthalmologist told her she no longer needed surgery.
“My mother was blind, two of my uncles were blind, and my husband is blind,” says Harvey. “I’m very grateful to find Schneider and his work.”
Schneider has been acknowledged by many leading experts in the vision field, including August Reader III, a clinical professor of ophthalmology at California Pacific Medical Center. Reader says that he has personally seen improvement in his patients who have worked with Schneider.
Doctor Edward Kondrot, an ophthalmologist and homeopathic physician, is interested in Schneider’s work and focuses his own vision research on reversing chronic eye disease, with an emphasis on light. He says that ‘light at night’ is not normal for humans and it is the most dramatic environmental change in the last thirty years, a direct result of computer use and artificial light. He says the intensity of this light is much higher than natural light and the wavelength is much shorter—a dangerous combination.
In the face of miraculous results, Schneider, Kondrot and other natural vision healers remain ostracized by the traditional vision world.
Kondrot says mainstream ophthalmology and natural vision therapy are “two different approaches to healing and they will never agree.”
Schneider says the fathers of ophthalmology in America decided that vision cannot improve and the issue has never been revisited.
“It’s a false decision,” says Schneider. “I’ve disproven it thousands of times so far.”
He thinks most ophthalmologists and optometrists are merely students of their teachers and ignorant to natural vision improvement, but he also thinks there’s more to it than that. He says his accomplishments challenge the entire system and people are scared.
“The whole school is to give you a correction and you’re brought up in that thinking,” says Alfred Lee, 93, an optometrist on Sacramento Street in San Francisco.
Lee says that optical schools are starting to come around to natural vision techniques, but not too long ago an optometrist could get his license revoked if he tried something like what Schneider is doing.
“At that time if anything is out of the realm or not the way they want it you’re blacklisted,” says Lee.
The UC system came close to conducting a research study on Schneider’s techniques but eventually backed out. He’s still waiting for someone else to come calling. Meanwhile he continues to help people get out of glasses.
Schneider’s School for Self Healing is intended primarily for people with vision problems, but also for those who wish to improve various muscular issues, learn embodiment techniques, and increase mindfulness. It has a vocation school status, so not only does he work with patients, but he also trains people to teach his method of healing. Schneider has one-hundred seven instructors teaching his method of vision improvement in Brazil and many others teaching throughout the United States. His new book Vision for Life is available worldwide, printed in English, Spanish, German, Mandarin, Hebrew and Czech.
Unfortunately, he says there is one downside for the people that visit him.
“They have to contend with my terrible jokes.”

Sensory Deprevation

By Xpress Mag Staff

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By Nicole Dobarro

I was naked in the darkest space I have ever been in. I willingly shut the door but my fingers refused to let go of the handle. Instead they only gripped tighter. My mind filled the seemingly silent space with an intensely loud, body-shuddering noise. As the first couple seconds passed the sound of my breath grew loud, competing with the rhythm of my racing heartbeat. I voluntarily decided that I was going to stay in this pitch-black, salt-water filled tank, also known as a sensory deprivation chamber, for an entire sixty minutes. It was a decision I started to regret.

After what felt like ten minutes, my mind progressed from a state of panic to reason. I was only naked in a soundproof tank where I couldn’t see anything. I thought, “How bad could it be?” My fingers finally released the death-grip I had around door handle and I began to sink back into the salt water. As I surrendered, my entire body was instantly lifted by the insane amount of Epsom salt mixed into the water. I was experiencing my first “float” and it felt really weird.

The story of sensory deprivation chambers begins in the 1950s with Dr. Jonathan Cunningham Lilly. He was sort of a fringe science jack-of-all-trades. He was a physician, biophysicist, neuroscientist, inventor and author. Many call him a pioneer in the counter-culture of modern science, while others would simply call him batshit crazy. Besides being the inventor of sensory deprivation chambers, Lilly is more famously known for his research done on communicating with dolphins and doing a lot of LSD in the name of science. His so-called eccentricity went on to inspire films like Ken Russell’s film Altered States and Mike Nichols’ film The Day of the Dolphin.

While Lilly’s research produced somewhat of a cult following, he was aiming to learn more about the human state of consciousness and its limits. Lilly’s research began in 1953 when he took at job with the National Institute of Mental Health. There he began studying how our brains work, what keeps it functioning and how it reacts to our environment. Lilly began toying around with sensory deprivation tanks to study the effects on the brain when all stimuli are removed. Stimuli in this case refers to vision and hearing. Lilly hoped that isolating these senses would prove that even without external stimuli, the brain and consciousness would continue to function.

Since research like this had never been done before, Lilly and his colleagues acted as the test subjects. Early designs of the tanks required them to be fully submerged in a water-filled tank wearing only a tight mask with a pipe for oxygen. Because of the uncomfortable state of having their heads wrapped in a tight neoprene fabric, the design evolved into the coffin-like tank design common today. Once the design proved more logical, Lilly began promoting the use of these tanks by sharing his experiences. Perhaps the most intriguing experience he shared with people he titled “First Conference of Three Beings” which is currently published on his website. Lilly recalls leaving behind his body in the tank and having a conference with three unknown entities “in a dimensionless space, the spaceless set of dimensions somewhere near the third planet of a small solar system dominated by a type-G star.” Was Lilly tripping or was this a legitimate experience? Who knows? However the act of floating in what feels like a zero-gravity tank caught on and is growing in popularity today. Today people “float” for different reasons. Most people float to reap the mental and physical benefits, though there are some who float as a shortcut to meditation and out of body experiences.

To gain a better understanding of how sensory deprivation tanks work, I decided I would need to get into the tank. I contacted Allison Walton, the owner of the Bay Area’s oldest float center called FLOAT located in Oakland. Allison opened FLOAT, which also acts as a constantly changing art space, in 2005 after she experienced a life-changing float twenty-five years ago. There are actually a couple spots in San Francisco that have float tanks, but none of the ones I found focused only on floating. I didn’t want to go to a spa that happened to have a tank. I wanted to talk to someone who actually knew what she was doing.

When I entered the space Allison greeted me with a glass of water and talked me through what I was going to do and what I could expect. She explained the types of tanks she had, which are manufactured by a San Diego company called Oasis. “Our tanks are the largest in the Bay Area. Everyone can fit in them,” says Allison. The white rectangular box is made of fiberglass with a vinyl inner liner. Allison explained that the solution, or water, used to float contains a high concentration of Epsom salt which increases the density of the solution causing a body to naturally float. “Average tanks require about 800 pounds of salt, but we use 1000 pounds,” Allison told me as she pointed to a stack of what looked like giant rice bags. “These tanks are also the most sound and light proof,” says Allison. “These don’t depend on the room  it is in for a lightproof or soundproof float.”

She continued to explain what my brain might experience when it is disconnected from all stimuli. Though first-time floaters rarely completely “let go” and experience out of body experiences, it was likely that my brainwaves would slow down and enter the state of theta. Our brains experience five states of being; alpha, beta, theta, delta and gamma. In the beta state, our brain waves reflect a waking state and entirely conscious state. In the alpha state, our brain waves reflect a relaxed state. This usually happens when our eyes are closed. And theta, the state our brains are likely to enter while in the tank, is when our brain waves slow down and allow dreaming. We generally experience theta when we’re falling into a deep sleep or are awakening from a deep sleep. The theta state is also when lucid dreaming occurs. Some people even recall experiencing vivid visualizations comparable to visualizations caused by hallucinogenic drugs. “Some people go straight into the theta state, even during their first float. But the rest of us are mortal,” says Allison.

I finished drinking my water and headed upstairs to the second floor loft where I would enter a tank and “unplug” from the world. An hour later, I was not sure about what I had experienced. What I had just done was weird and I could not tell if removing myself from external stimuli affected me in any way. I only remember waking a couple times from a light sleep and before I knew it the hour was up. “It’s is a really weird thing,” says Allison. “Not everyone gets used to it and just fights the experience the whole time. I once had a friend that refused to let go of the handle and she exerted herself so much to prevent herself from floating that she eventually fell asleep.” Because our reactions to the tanks all differ in experience, the types of floats experienced differ as well. No two floats are ever the same. “Everyone’s brain is completely different,” says Allison. “Some people see crazy light shows or budding paisleys the second they close their eyes. Some people don’t fall asleep but just think.”

When I asked about the type of people that float, the answer I got surprised me. I honestly that it would be a small niche of people into odd alternative medicine. “When I opened, I thought there’d be a type of client,” says Allison. “But our clients are really busy people, business people or people with families. There really is no profile because we get all ages and all ethnicities.” Allison did mention that her clients do tend to be of the more creative type if anything. “Lots of people float to clear a mind block, whether it be doctors or artists or writers,” says Allison. “And every time someone comes to float because they need a new idea, the second they step out of the tank, they got it.”

The benefits of floating truly seem to be all over the grid. The benefits range from mental relaxation and rejuvenation, similar to the effects of a deep meditation, to physical relaxation, like entering a state of savasana. “We’re constantly reacting to stimuli in our environment, in particular to technology,” explains Allison. “Our bodies are doing things [like using technology] that humans aren’t designed for. We’re designed to be creative, thinking beings.” Floating is a way to unplug from it all. Today, floating promotes the entire and complete relaxation of our most complex organ, our brains. “For almost everyone, floating will be the only time we’re completely alone with ourselves since the womb,” says Allison.

It seems like Lilly’s isolation tanks are all grown up. Even the language is evolving from sensory deprivation chambers to isolation tanks to float tanks. “It’ll probably be another ten years before they’re actually called float tanks,” says Allison. Though the change in views on floatation therapy will take some time, Allison believes that we will soon be seeing float tanks, or “unplugging stations,” everywhere. We are continuously online and the growth of technology doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. So in order to keep our heads screwed on while constantly receiving new information and the stress that follows, we need to find a way to disconnect. As crazy as paying to be shut into a dark, soundless water tank sounds, it may be one of the few ways to keep us sane.

Photos Courtesy of Allison

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